Empowering developers, controlling Parkinson’s tremors and offering free apps for Mom – Weekend Reading: May 12 edition

May 12, 2017   |   Susanna Ray

Developers were in focus this week, as Microsoft welcomed thousands of them to Seattle for Build 2017, the company’s annual developer conference.

“In a world of near infinite compute power and an exponential growth in data, we are focused on empowering every developer to build applications for this new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge,” said Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, highlighting examples of innovations happening today.

Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s AI and Research group, expanded on that mission and shared the company’s vision to make the power of artificial intelligence available to everyone, “from developers and data scientists to tech enthusiasts and students.” To that end, there’s a new, comprehensive platform of tools and services to help developers with AI.

Microsoft draws inspiration from developers and their innovative passion, Nadella said. One such developer is Haiyan Zhang, innovation director at Microsoft Research Cambridge in England.

Zhang’s ingenuity, curiosity and perseverance led her to create a prototype watch that enabled Emma Lawton, a graphic designer diagnosed at 29 with Parkinson’s disease, to draw a straight line — and write her name — for the first time in years. Lawton now uses the tool for sketch projects, and Zhang is collaborating on a new initiative to explore the use of sensors and AI to detect and monitor the complex symptoms associated with Parkinson’s – from body rigidity and gait slowness to falling and tremors.

Speaking of Microsoft Research Cambridge, the European arm of Microsoft’s research organization where Zhang works, its director Chris Bishop has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

Bishop is a world-renowned expert in AI and machine learning. He’s among 50 other scientists from across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth and 10 Foreign Members elected to the Royal Society, including pioneers in understanding the chemical origins of life and discovering how humans operate on a 24-hour cycle.

“Science is a great triumph of human achievement and has contributed hugely to the prosperity and health of our world,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society. “In the coming decades it will play an increasingly crucial role in tackling the great challenges of our time including food, energy, health and the environment.”

Adding an expert in artificial intelligence to the society’s ranks “reflects the emergence of machine learning as the most transformational technology in computing,” said Bishop. “Machine learning underpins the current excitement around artificial intelligence.”

Researchers at Microsoft have been exploring ways computers and people, including health care providers and patients, can work together in complementary ways to build a healthier future.

An example of the groundbreaking papers presented at this year’s ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is one on the Assess MS system. It uses the computer vision functionality of Microsoft’s Kinect to aid medical professionals in assessing the disease progression in multiple sclerosis. Other work includes technologies that gather and track personal health care data, digital solutions to help those in mental distress and advancements in human eye-gaze tracking.

Harman Kardon has unveiled a new Invoke speaker that brings Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant, into the home with a beautiful design and rich sound. Cortana can play music for you, manage your calendar, check traffic, make Skype calls, control smart home devices and more.

If you’re looking for ideas to treat Mom this weekend, you’ll find plenty of free apps in the Mother’s Day collection in the Windows Store that will make it a special day for her. Be sure to take advantage of the four-month free trial of Groove Music to play her favorite tunes – ad-free and with no Wi-Fi required.

On the games front, the Hot Wheels expansion for “Forza Horizon 3” is now available, ready to transport racers to a new Australian locale, where orange tracks spiral and loop into the air and iconic Hot Wheels cars come to life.

Have a terrific weekend celebrating the mothers in your life – and all of your loved ones, for that matter! – and we’ll see you next Friday for another edition of Weekend Reading.

Posted by Susanna Ray

Microsoft News Center Staff

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